Nurses have always been the unsung heroes, as well as the backbone, of the health care system. With thousands of them gathered in San Antonio, Texas, last month for the 41st Oncology Nursing Society Congress, AAMDSIF hosted a Breakfast Symposium to kick off their first day of this annual meeting.
Over 300 oncology nurses attended our presentation – hungry for the scientific news, as well as a hearty meal to start their long day of sessions. Accustomed to early calls and long hours, the nurses began arriving around 5am. Our presentation panel included Nancy Corbitt, Joan Latsko and Barbara Weinstein – all highly experienced nurses – as well as Dr. Shyamala Navada, who discussed the latest advances in the treatment and care of MDS patients.
AAMDSIF volunteers Monica Fairchild and Carmen Romo de Vivar, sisters from the San Antonio area, provided much needed assistance at our registration desk. As the nurses came through, they were greeted by our helpful staff and given pre-loaded flash drives containing all of the presentations they were about to hear. We also gave them packets containing information on each disease and the services we provide. It felt great to be able to provide valuable educational material to these individuals who tirelessly attend to the needs of others.
Many attending our symposia were there to obtain important continuing education credits, intended to help medical professionals maintain competence and learn about new and developing areas of their field. These requirements enable health professionals to stay on top of new advances in treatment and care. As one nurse put it, “A lot of information, a lot of new stuff out there. We need to stay on top of it”. This is what makes our symposium so gratifying – that nurses from various backgrounds have this opportunity to learn from leading experts and bring that knowledge back home to enhance their respective practices.
Like our other live professional education programs, our ONS satellite symposium provides health professionals with a collaborative environment where they can learn from colleagues and share their experiences. While knowing the basic science of bone marrow failure disease is a must, many nurses told us that they appreciated discussion topics specifically designed for them. This was reflected in numerous comments like this one: “A lot of the time, these events tend to be too scientific. I enjoyed that your event was more about nursing and patient interaction”. Another common theme was the appreciation that presenters addressed patient care and focused more on nurses’ experiences and the issues that matter most to them.
Supporting colleagues Ellen Salkeld, Senior Director of Research and Health Professional Programs, and Alice Houk, Director of Health Professional Programs, gave me a genuine sense of pride, knowing that our organization contributes so much to the nursing profession caring for patients struggling with MDS and other bone marrow failure diseases. One nurse who led a session on health literacy described our patient guides as a great example of patient education materials, written clearly and designed well for maximum understanding. Many nurses who visited our exhibit were pleased to learn about our free online nursing education programs and our free patient education resources. Others were excited to hear about our Patient and Family Conferences being held across the country. Nurses who attended these conferences noted their welcoming nature and warm inclusion of friends and caregivers.
We would like to thank all those who attended our highly-rated symposium, as well as those who stopped by our exhibit. It was certainly an insightful four days for all of those attending the ONC Congress. As for our team, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet the individuals who work so hard to support our patients.